The WPL 2023 made an impressive debut and promised a bright future for aspiring female cricketers in India but the hurriedly organized first season left a lot of scope for improvement going forward. The WPL played entirely across two venues in Mumbai and witnessed special performances from some of the best cricketers in the world but left aside a special talent like left-arm spinner Saika Ishaque. The five-team competition ended on Sunday with Mumbai Indians captain Harmanpreet Kaur finally leading her side across the line in the clash against a team captained by Australian legend Meg Lanning.
The tournament began with plenty of scores over 200 with boundaries as short as 42-44 meters, but pitches tired out eventually and became spin-friendly. Mumbai’s Hayley Matthews won the Purple Cap for her 16 wickets — including three in the final as she also became the Player of the Tournament. Nat Sciver-Brunt was the overall top performer with 10 wickets and 332 runs for MI. Apart from Mumbai Indians’ Ishaque, who took 15 wickets, Shreyanka Patil and Kanika Ahuja of Royal Challengers, Bangalore made their mark on the big stage. While Patil lit up the field with her energy and enthusiasm, 20-year-old Ahuja showed promises at a young age with her explosive batting.
Harmanpreet acknowledged that little-known Indian players did not get many roles and opportunities to play, but added value to their teams with their fielding, citing the examples of MI’s Amanjot Kaur and Jintimani Kalita. The Indian skipper hoped that young and uncapped Indian players will gain experience from the experienced, knowing what they needed to do in order to bridge the gap. Mumbai Indians achieved five consecutive wins on the route to the title triumph.
RCB faced difficulties in the inaugural WPL season:
A team led by another Indian star, Smriti Mandhana‘s Royal Challengers Bangalore, conceded a five-game losing streak when the competition started and the WPL 2023 campaign ended for them even before it began. Mandhana admitted facing difficulties handling a team of players with more prominent names and more experienced than her. Her own form with the bat failed to inspire RCB, who also had the likes of Ellyse Perry, Heather Knight, Sophie Devine, Megan Schutt, and Renuka Singh to name a few. There is no doubt about Mandhana’s leadership prospect with the Indian team that she will emerge better from her first WPL as captain and player. The question still remains as to how the team will respond after a horrendous first season.
Delhi Capitals’ Campaign:
Lanning’s Delhi Capitals did not fear the opposition as Harmanpreet’s MI did but the Australian Lanning led from the front and ended as the tournament’s leading run-getter. But if Lanning was consistent with the bat at the top, Shafali Verma’s hot and cold performances remained an issue that Delhi Capitals could not do much about. If RCB had to bear with Mandhana’s poor run with the bat, Delhi Capitals experienced the same with their vice-captain Jemimah Rodrigues. The right-handed batter failed to score even a fifty but entertained the crowd with her athleticism on the field by taking some stunning catches.
Gujarat Giants & UP Warriorz fell short:
Gujarat Giants began by losing their captain Beth Mooney halfway into the first game and endured a largely disappointing campaign. Harleen Deol’s contributions mixed with Ashleigh Gardner’s consistency gave them hope for the future. Sneh Rana did her best as stand-in captain, but overall, GG were not good enough to advance to the knockouts.
Alyssa Healy’s UP Warriorz got outplayed in the Eliminator by Mumbai Indians, but they were the first side to beat the eventual winners and showed a lot of promises with Navgire, Grace Harris, Anjali Sarvani, and Sophie Ecclestone, who took joint highest 16 wickets, in their ranks.
The 22-game competition continued over this whole March and was held entirely in Mumbai, and like many, both Healy and Ecclestone also wished for home and away games from next season onwards. It remains to be seen if the BCCI decides to organize the next WPL in the home-away format like the Indian Premier League, as crowd support plays a big part in the success of teams and also helps in creating a much-needed fan base.